The Connected Chef offers cooking and gardening classes for kids, families, and now, adults to help families connect over food through cooking and gardening together. Both The Connected Chef and Kids Cook Monday encourage families to cook and enjoy meals together as often as possible. All classes offered at The Connected Chef focus on method and technique of cooking. Students gain a greater understanding of how food grows and how flavors build.
Kim Calichio, founder of The Connected Chef, understands firsthand how families struggle to find time to cook and eat meals together when time is limited. With a background as a chef working in one of NYC’s top restaurants, Kim wanted to share these skills with other parents, and help families connect over food.
We spoke with Kim and asked her to share some insights and tips for getting kids involved with cooking, how families can find time to cook and enjoy meals together, and how to use Monday as a day to get on a healthier track.
Why is it important for children to be involved in cooking and preparing food?
When children are involved in the cooking, a couple things happen.
1. Their engagement brings excitement to the food and cooking begins to take away some of the fear associated with eating new things. This means that kids are more likely to try new ingredients that they wouldn’t otherwise have tried.
2. Food begins to become a natural place of connection for the family. Parents are busy enough and much of the time parents are searching and longing for ways to easily connect with our children, stress free. When meal time can be transformed into 30 minutes of laughter and connection, instead of separation and stress, both parents and kids benefit.
Because of these two things, food becomes less of a struggle in the home, and both kids and parents begin to feel excited and good about being in the kitchen.
Why is Monday a good day to cook and eat meals together?
I think any day is really the perfect day to eat together and at The Connected Chef, we talk a lot to our clients about using what works best for them. Every family is different and requires different strategies, but often with kids, schedules are really tight. You have to be a master at organizing so many moving pieces to make sure your week runs smoothly.
I think sitting down and eating together on a Monday is great because it’s such a nice way to begin the week fresh. That however, doesn’t mean you couldn’t have done your cooking on other days and simply do the preheating on Monday.
Finding what works best for your family, specifically, is so important. No family is the same.
What inspired you to start The Connected Chef?
What sparked The Connected Chef was my realization after becoming a mom, that with my restaurant experience, I somehow approached food very differently than my friends. This meant that food and cooking was less stressful and more enjoyable for me.
It made me really sad when I would see how defeated parents got when you mentioned cooking and dinner time. To me, food is supposed to be “The Great Connector.” When I think of food, I think about laughter and music and fun. I wanted to help other families have that same experience. With our adult and children’s cooking classes, we’ve been able to educate families on a new approach to cooking and provide the foundational skills needed to feel comfortable in the kitchen.
What are some tasks children can help with when preparing a meal?
First, I always recommend giving your child their own station in the kitchen. Give them their own space with a cutting board and a kid-safe knife. This gives them autonomy over their tasks and takes the stress away from the parents because the kids aren’t physically in the way.
From there some tasks for kids can include picking herbs, crushing garlic with a can or stainless-steel bottle to remove the skin, using a box grater or zester, and juicing citrus.
With their own station and a kid-safe, nylon knife, your child can do just about any kitchen task that adults do. Often parents underestimate a child’s ability in the kitchen because the adult is nervous. I encourage parents to give their children a little leeway.
Can you offer some tips for families on making time in busy schedules for cooking and eating meals together?
This is often the hardest part for so many families. Time.
I am a true believer that this aspect of getting meals on the table is very specialized and is different for every family. There are some things each family can think about though to begin dissecting and gaining clarity on their own needs.
First, I URGE parents to start small. Cooking consistently and happily once a day is always better than trying to do too much and struggling regularly. You want to train yourself for success and starting small will keep you motivated. As you get comfortable, you can add more recipes or cooking days.
Second, learning about what kind of meal prepper you are is really important. Not all of us plan our weeks the same way. Some like to cook a ton for the week on one day and others like to do bits at a time. I’ve identified three main types of meal planners and that is one of the first steps we take our clients through. From there, you can find a system and schedule that works for you.
Lastly, I would say that above all – you need to be easy on yourself!
As a parent, things are ALWAYS going to come up and get in the way. It’s part of what makes parenting so crazy and chaotic at times. You will get yourself all set up with a “plan” and then something happens and it all goes out the window. I always tell our clients that being realistic about this is necessary. The key is to have the support and organization in place so that you can bounce back quickly.
What is your favorite recipe to cook and enjoy with your family?
Part of what we teach our parents in our cooking classes is to learn the techniques of cooking – searing, braising, roasting, etc., and learning to be able to cook with or without a recipe.
However, recipes are great as a guideline.